In today's day and age, it seems that everyone is dealing with massive amounts of stress. As a result, Canadians seem to be turning to all sorts of avenues to relax. From taking Melatonin or sleeping under a weighted blanket, it's clear that finding the opportunity to relax and de-stress has become a big priority for many Canadians.
Though for some people, it seems to be easier than ever before with relaxation only a click away thanks to a phenomenon named ASMR that has been sweeping the online world.
Short for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, ASMR is the intense relaxation people feel when they hear a calming voice, noise or see a relaxing visual. The best way to describe the feeling the community regards as "tingles," would be similar to the tingling feeling you might have felt in the past if someone has played with your hair before.
Most ASMR creators, viewed as ASMRtists in the community, upload videos to YouTube where they whisper, tap on objects, speak softly and so much more all in an effort to relax their subscribers. The community has been operating under the radar for many years but in the past year has grown astronomically in popularity with some creators garnering over a million subscribers.
The idea of people whispering into your ear sounds weird when taken at face value, but the benefits are very much real for devoted fans of ASMR. Many members claim it reduces stress, anxiety, depression and of course, helps many fall asleep. In some cases, some listeners claim they've been able to ditch medication for anxiety or sleeping disorders thanks to the relaxing videos now found easily online.
One prominent ASMRtist based in Toronto named Gwen has garnered over 340,000 subscribers and millions of views as a result of her ASMR channel on YouTube. She took the time to sit down with me to talk about the ASMR phenomenon, what it's like to be a creator in the still controversial community, and what ASMR means to her.
For readers who aren’t aware of what ASMR is, what would you say is the easiest way to explain it?
ASMR is basically sounds and visual cues that allow a person to relax and in many cases feel “tingles”. A lot of people turn to ASMR at the end of the day to help them relax and fall asleep, or at any point in the day just to calm their mind, especially when dealing with anxiety.
I personally love watching ASMR whenever I’m feeling particularly stressed or anxious, or when I’m studying/writing as it helps to focus my mind, but everyone is different! Lately, I’ve also been loving watching “The Joy Of Painting” with Bob Ross before bed. Bob Ross is basically the original ASMRist (although unintentionally). I find it really relaxing and a calming way to end the day!
When did you personally discover ASMR and eventually decide to make videos yourself?
Somebody I was dating a few years ago actually introduced it to me! For Christmas, I made them an ASMR video and put it on YouTube so they could watch it wherever. I had no intention for anyone else to see the video, but to my surprise, the next morning the video had views and comments from people telling me to make more. I thought it was fun so I decided to just give it a go, and never looked back!
Do you actually experience ASMR? If so, how has it impacted you outside of your YouTube channel's success?
Yes! I find “tingles” harder to come by, but I do find ASMR videos to be super relaxing, calming and pleasing to watch. Right now as I said, I’ve been loving watching Bob Ross to help me sleep at night. I also notice sounds so much more now and am always finding new things to make fun trigger videos with.
Considering the taboo surrounding ASMR, did you initially tell your friends and family about your channel or did you wait until it became more mainstream?
I never told anyone about my channel at first. It wasn’t because it was taboo or anything, but rather that I was putting myself out there on the internet and that in itself is scary. After a few months as my channel grew, people I knew in real life found out about it. By that point, I was already loving making videos so much that whatever they thought wouldn’t have impacted me or made me want to stop anyways.
I’ve noticed you take a slightly different approach than a lot of mainstream ASMR creators and like to incorporate more traditional YouTube lifestyle content in ASMR form, what was your thought process behind that?
Before I knew about ASMR, I was already a huge fan of Youtube and had been watching regularly since 2008. I usually watched beauty and lifestyle girls so I was familiar and enjoyed those types of videos, so thought it would be fun to mix that style with ASMR. Beauty and fashion videos also work really well for ASMR because there’s a lot of interesting sounds within that, like tapping on makeup products, sounds of fabric on clothing, etc.
What’s been the hardest part of your experience as an ASMRtist?
The hardest part was dealing with online comments and peoples perception of me. At the start, it really got to me, and even though most comments are positive, the few negative ones were hard to push past. Over time I learned to ignore it because most of what people would say wasn’t even true. Now I focus on all the amazing viewers I have that come back every week, and I love interacting and getting to know them.
What is it about creating ASMR content that keeps you inspired to continue considering that while the concept is more accepted than it was before, it still is quite taboo.
I find making ASMR videos so much fun. It’s such an amazing creative outlet, and I love the entire process of planning, filming, editing, so for me, it’s the most ideal job. But even more so what keeps me going is the response from my audience which is so incredibly rewarding. Every day I get messages from viewers saying I help them fall sleep and feel better, and that makes every difficult comment worth it.
Do you think there’s a reason why ASMR has seen such a boost in popularity in the past two years?
That’s a really good question, one I have no real idea of the answer. I guess as with many things, the internet has allowed a faster and quicker spread of information, so people are just learning and discovering new things now more than ever. As people in mainstream media discover it and see just how popular it is online within the ASMR community, they probably realized it would make for some interesting content. Now with the Netflix documentary, and celebrities trying it out, most people have some idea what ASMR is, which is really cool.
Do you have any words for skeptics who trivialize ASMRtists and viewers?
I guess I’d ask those people if they’ve ever struggled to fall asleep at night. I think at some point we’ve all dealt with this, and whatever you can find to help deal with that is awesome. For many people that is ASMR videos. The same way I’d never judge someone for taking sleeping pills, it’s weird that anyone would judge someone for watching ASMR.
What do you think is the future for ASMR?
In this day and age, it’s pretty impossible to predict the future and what will come. I’d love for ASMR to grow in popularity and be better understood and respected by all.
Finally, are there any ASMRtists you would personally recommend?
YES! Right now I’m obsessed with Goodnight Moon ASMR. Her videos are so well done, with such attention to detail. She makes me question why I even try to make my own videos haha (but also very inspirational!). Definitely check her out if you’re into ASMR.